Standardized testing is one of the least understood and most dreaded parts of the business school application process. Here are some of the most relevant factors to consider when deciding whether to take the GMAT or GRE.

  • Schools Accept Either Test.

With a very few exceptions, most domestic and international MBA programs accept either the GMAT or GRE. Although there used to be an unspoken preference for the GMAT (business schools had a better understanding of how to interpret the scores) that is not the case anymore. So, take the test that puts you in the best light.

  • Try Both Before You Decide.

One of the best ways to figure out where to invest your study time is to take full-length, timed practice tests of both exams. In addition to comparing your scores (there are conversion charts available online) be honest with yourself about which format is more intuitive.

  • The Quant is Easier On The GRE.

It’s not your imagination – the quant section is easier on the GRE. So, if you didn’t take many quantitative classes in college you might do better on the GRE. (Business schools pay particular attention to your quant score, since they want to make sure that you can handle core courses like stats and accounting.) However, please keep in mind that the admissions committee knows that it’s easier to get a 70th percentile quant score on the GRE than the GMAT, so they will be looking carefully at all indicators of your ability to excel academically.

  • The GRE Verbal Section Can Be Hard For Multilingual Candidates.

Conversely, the GRE verbal section has been shown to be disproportionately challenging for people who are multilingual, especially non-native English speakers. Also, there is a lot of vocabulary on the GRE, which can be challenging for some applicants, regardless of their native language.

  • Weak standardized test takers should strongly consider the GRE.

Business schools care about their rankings, and the average GMAT score is a big factor. While this could change at any time, the GMAT currently matters more in the rankings formula than the GRE. So, if a school wants to admit you but you have a below average GMAT, you will bring them down in the rankings. In many cases, applying with a below average GRE instead will allow them to admit you without taking a hit in the rankings.

Whatever you decide, give yourself enough time to take the test several times, if necessary. Most candidates take the exam at least twice. Also, it bears repeating that your standardized test score is just one part of your overall candidacy, so please don’t neglect the rest of your application. Your voice, your story and what you will contribute truly matters and can have a bigger impact than your GMAT or GRE score.

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Karen Marks

Karen has more than 12 years of experience evaluating candidates for admission to Dartmouth College and to the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. Since founding North Star Admissions Consulting in 2012, she has helped applicants gain admission to the nation’s top schools, including Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Wharton, MIT, Tuck, Columbia, Kellogg, Booth, Haas, Duke, Johnson, Ross, NYU, UNC, UCLA, Georgetown and more. Clients have been awarded more than $70 million dollars in scholarships, and more than 98% have gotten into one of their top choice schools.
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